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Rural News

Even in prosperous times, rural Wisconsin economy faces an uphill climb

Wisconsin State Journal | Posted on June 11, 2018

By many standards, Wisconsin’s overall economic condition has never been better. Its core unemployment rate is the nation’s eighth-lowest; it ranks fifth among the states in the percentage of adults who are part of the labor force; it ranks 11th in the per capita growth of its gross domestic product since 2010; and it ranks 19th among the states in the percentage growth of total business establishments in this decade. Those are statewide snapshots from a mix of sources, but there is really no such thing as a “statewide” economy. Depending on where you stand in Wisconsin, you might see a thriving tech-based economy in Madison, manufacturing vibrancy in the Fox Valley or a struggling small-town economy in many villages and cities.The survival challenge for rural Wisconsin, which includes many municipalities of 5,000 or fewer people, is one of the state’s most vexing issues.Unless current trends reverse, rural Wisconsin will be much older in 2025 than it is today or than it was 10 years ago. In northern Wisconsin, it is projected that people 60 and older will make up at least 30 percent of about two dozen counties. In some counties, the 60-and-over share could be as much as 50 percent.

Canada and EU produce plastic charter at G7

Plastic News | Posted on June 11, 2018

Ocean litter, recycling and more environmentally sustainable uses of plastics in general get significant attention in the Ocean Plastics Charter adopted June 9 by five of the G7 member nations. The non-binding charter, signed by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union, suggests those governments want to see significant improvements in how plastic is used and how plastic waste is managed.It includes a commitment to recycle and reuse at least 55 percent of plastics packaging by 2030, and recover all plastics by 2040, and as expected, calls for “significantly reducing” unnecessary uses of single-use plastics.The document includes 23 specific points in five broad categories, and also suggests stronger government roles in supporting markets for recycled plastics, including increasing recycled content by at least 50 percent in plastic products by 2030.

Human encouragement might influence how dogs solve problems

Science Daily | Posted on June 9, 2018

Human encouragement might influence how dogs solve problems, according to a new Oregon State University study.

You talking to me? Scientists try to unravel the mystery of 'animal conversations'

Science Daily | Posted on June 9, 2018

An international team of academics undertook a large-scale review of research into turn-taking behavior in animal communication, analyzing hundreds of animal studies.

Dog Germs Diversify, May Threaten Humans with Flu Pandemics

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News | Posted on June 9, 2018

If you lie with dogs, you might get fleas—or worse, an influenza virus that is completely unfamiliar to your immune defenses. The risk appears to be rising, says an international team of scientists that has been studying how influenza viruses jump from species to species. In a new study, these scientists present evidence that influenza virus can jump from pigs into canines, and that influenza is becoming increasingly diverse in canines. The scientists, who are affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the National Institutes of Health, and Guangxi University, warn that mammals remain under-recognized sources of influenza virus diversity, including pigs that were the source of the 2009 pandemic and bats and bovines that harbor highly divergent viral lineages. Dogs, too, may serve as influenza reservoirs, as the scientists discovered after sequencing the complete genomes of 16 influenza A viruses (IAVs) obtained from canines in southern China.

Rich buyers are pushing rural hospitals to a controversial practice

The Atlantic | Posted on June 9, 2018

Beau Gertz faced a crowd of worried locals at the town senior center, hoping to sell them on his vision for their long-beloved—but now bankrupt—hospital. In worn blue jeans and an untucked shirt, the bearded entrepreneur from Denver pledged at a town-hall meeting in March to revive the Surprise Valley Community Hospital—a place many in the audience counted on to set their broken bones, stitch up cattle-tagging cuts, and tend to aging loved ones. Gertz said that if they voted on Tuesday to let him buy their tiny public hospital, he would retain such vital services. Better still, he said, he’d like to open a “wellness center” to attract well-heeled outsiders—one that would offer telehealth, addiction treatment, physical therapy, genetic testing, intravenous vitamin infusions, and even massages. Cedarville’s failing hospital, now at least $4 million in debt, would not just bounce back but thrive, he said. Gertz, 34, a former weightlifter who runs clinical-lab and nutraceutical companies, unveiled his plan to pay for it: He’d use the 26-bed hospital to bill insurers for lab tests regardless of where patients lived. Through telemedicine technology, doctors working for Surprise Valley could order tests for people who’d never set foot there.

Decapitated Snake Head Nearly Kills Man

National Geographic | Posted on June 8, 2018

A Texas man was doing yard work when he spotted a four-foot rattlesnake. He beheaded the snake with a shovel—but when he went to dispose of it, the severed head bit him. The man received a massive dose of the snake’s venom. He became seriously ill and had to be air-lifted to a hospital, where he required a large number of doses of antivenom. A week later he remains in stable condition. The snake was reported to be a Western diamondback rattlesnake.This story is perhaps not as uncommon as it may seem, because snakes—like many other reptiles—retain their reflexes even hours after death. The bite reflex is extremely strong in venomous snakes, because their instinct is to deliver one extremely quick bite, move away, and wait for their venom to work. Unfortunately for the Texan, this bite reflex can be triggered hours after the snake dies.

We need to fix up roads and bridges — not mines

High Country News | Posted on June 8, 2018

Federal officials are considering a proposal to add mining to the list of sectors covered by federal legislation that grants funds and speeds up infrastructure projects. The law is called Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, aka FAST-41, passed in 2015. How can mines qualify — the way roads and bridges certainly do — as community “infrastructure?” Mines produce vast quantities of waste, much of it hazardous waste that must be managed forever. Even with modern technology, water pollution, enormous waste-rock piles, heavy-metal-laden dust and toxic spills are the norm.  Worse, the decision on whether to allow mining projects to be fast-tracked is being made behind closed doors, without any involvement from the citizens who will be most affected by it. 

It’s Wildfire Season in California, and Utilities Want to Tamp Down Their Liability

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on June 8, 2018

California utilities might have to pay billions of dollars in damage if state investigators find their power lines sparked last year’s devastating wildfires. And they’ll face similar bills in the future, whenever a tree falls across a power line and sparks a fire that reduces homes, hotels and schools to ashes. To head off financial disaster, the companies and the electrical workers’ union are frantically lobbying Golden State officials for relief from a system that the utilities say is unfair: They’re liable when their equipment ignites a fire, but they can’t automatically pass on the costs to consumers. “Our employers are now at financial risk, because the damage associated with these fires is literally billions and billions of dollars,” said Hunter Stern, a business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, which represents 20,000 workers in California and Nevada. But advocates for ratepayers and wildfire victims say the current system works just fine, and that it gives utilities an incentive to trim nearby trees and invest in their infrastructure.

Des Moines DREAMer dies within weeks after being sent back to Mexico’s violence

Des Moines Register | Posted on June 8, 2018

Manuel Antonio Cano Pacheco should have graduated from high school in Des Moines last month. The oldest of four siblings should have walked across a stage in a cap and gown to become a proud symbol to his sister and brothers of the rewards of hard work and education. Instead, Manuel died a brutal death alone in a foreign land, a symbol of gang supremacy in a country plagued by violent drug cartels. It happened three weeks after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement returned him to Mexico, a country he had left at age 3 when his parents brought him here without a visa. The fact that America was the only home he has known made Manuel eligible to apply for and be granted DACA status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by former President Barack Obama. It exempted from deportation certain young people, referred to as DREAMERS, who were brought to the U.S. without papers as children. But that status didn’t protect Manuel when he came to immigration authorities’ attention after being stopped for speeding last fall and charged with driving under the influence. An ICE spokesperson said in a statement that ICE officers arrested him in Polk County Jail, and a federal immigration judge terminated his DACA status because of two  misdemeanor convictions.